Endurance Nutrition: Piecing together the nutrition puzzle for optimum performance

In a recent fueling and nutrition workshop with our affiliated Accredited Sports Dietitian, Michelle Bruce of Tune Up Health, we examined the Why, Who, What, When, Where and How pieces of the puzzle, to help those in attendance understand what their individual ‘best fit’ pieces in the puzzle may be.


Endurance nutrition is like a jigsaw – there are many parts to the puzzle. As individuals, each of our puzzles will look different depending on our goals, training history, fueling preferences, work and family commitments and our puzzles will look different for each event that we do. Because of this, we can’t expect each of our puzzle pieces to be the same – the pieces that ‘fit’ together for your training partner may not ‘fit’ for you.

Why?

The foods we eat can have a big impact on how well we train, perform and recover. Food provides us with the energy and nutrients required for the body to function, it supports our growth and development, helps us to optimise training adaptations, delays the onset of fatigue, enhances our recovery between training sessions and competition, and reduces the risk of injury and illness.

Who?

We all have different genetics, body composition, lifestyle, dietary preferences, training history and training and/or race goals. As such, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach. Every athlete is unique, and so our nutrition should be personalised accordingly.

What?

Sports foods and drinks typically contain carbohydrate (sugars) to provide us with energy, sodium (salt) and water, to help us maintain adequate hydration levels. Commercially available sports foods and drinks are specially formulated to help us achieve specific sports nutrition performance goals. However, we can also utilise ‘real’ foods such as bananas, lollies, sandwiches and trail mix as fuel. It is important to recognise however that in these, the nutrient content may be variable and may not be as well tolerated. In longer events or training sessions, you might want to consider taking a mixture of formulated sports foods and ‘real’ foods to help combat flavour fatigue.

When?

Focusing on eating and drinking certain foods before, during and after exercise (referred to as nutrient timing) can assist us in our quest for optimal performance. Before exercise, we should top up our muscle glycogen stores with carbohydrates and sip on fluids so we start well hydrated. During exercise, carbohydrate is our body’s preferred fuel, and we also need to ensure we drink enough to minimise dehydration. After exercise, our recovery is enhanced by replenishing our depleted muscle glycogen stores with carbohydrate, repairing our muscles with protein, and rehydrating with fluids and electrolytes.

Where?

Study your event course. Know what nutrition is provided on course and where the aid stations are. Identify if there are any technical parts of the course that may limit opportunity to fuel according to your intended plan.

How?

Have a nutrition plan. Consider what foods, drinks and/or supplements you will consume and when. Practice new foods and fueling strategies during training, and NEVER try something new in a race.

Missing a piece?

Save time and energy trying to figure it out on your own by seeing a sports dietitian. You don’t need to be an elite athlete to benefit from seeking out their expertise. Michelle, our  affiliated Accredited Sports Dietitian is available for consultations at Padstow Chiropractic on Saturday afternoons*. Phone the clinic on 9792 3135 to make an appointment.

*Other times may be available upon request.

Article by: Michelle Bruce  – Accredited Sports Dietitian

About Rachel Allworth (91 Articles)
Owner & Coach - Rachel's Runners

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